How will PM and health secretary lead the UK through coronavirus from self-isolation?

The prime minister and health secretary both testing positive for coronavirus has created new difficulties for the figures leading the country's fight against Covid-19.

Boris Johnson has insisted he will still be able to work with his "top team" through “the wizardry of modern technology”. Mr Hancock echoed the prime minister, saying he had only mild symptoms.

Sir Patrick Vallance said Mr Johnson was already using "digital tools" to manage meetings.

While he self-isolates, officials will be working to ensure Mr Johnson has access to the information he needs, as well as staying in touch with key personnel.

This includes Cabinet ministers, political advisers such as Dominic Cummings, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty as well as Sir Patrick.

How is the prime minister staying in touch with his colleagues?

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister was pictured speaking to the Cabinet using the Zoom video conferencing platform that has exploded in popularity during the virus outbreak.

This was despite Ministry of Defence staff being banned from using it amid security fears.

The UK has been on lockdown for nearly a week. Credit: PA

Alan Woodward, professor of cyber security at the University of Surrey, said the Government would be able to rely on “secure telephone units” to help Mr Johnson make important phone calls from Downing Street.

“Inside Government they have a secure telephone system, it used to be called Brent two,” he said.

“The Prime Minister is lucky he lives above the shop, he’s got one there, and it doesn’t take much to fit them, so people like Matt Hancock doubtless has one.

“So just talking is simple and you can talk at the highest levels of classification on it.”

The Queen has already been pictured at Windsor Castle holding her weekly audience with the Prime Minister by telephone.

Prof Woodward acknowledged that the use of Zoom by Cabinet had “raised eyebrows”, with the company having “fairly serious security problems” in the past.

Prof Woodward said: “I’m sure that the national cyber security centre will be looking at these things to make sure there are no holes.”

Prof Woodward said officials will be ensuring communications channels use encryption, and will be relying on the existing Government secure intranet for some emails.

Catherine Haddon, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government, suggested the Prime Minister would be receiving more digital information in the near future.

She also said the earlier selection of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab as a stand-in for Mr Johnson in case he became unwell solved any political problems among ministers.

“They were already doing a certain amount of remote working, we know that Cabinet has been using video conferencing, so has the G7, G20,” she said.

Raab would deputise as PM if Mr Johnson was too unwell to lead the country. Credit: PA

Raab to take over as PM?

Ms Haddon emphasised that Mr Johnson said his conditions were mild so his workload capacity was unlikely to change much.

She explained the Government’s Cabinet system allowed ministers to deputise for the Prime Minister should he become more unwell, such as by chairing the Cobra committee.

Ms Haddon added: “I assume that one of the reasons for naming Raab as the ‘designated survivor’, the phrase that has been used possibly inappropriately, is to avoid any political battle if there was suddenly a vacuum at the top.

“It’s more about the political leadership in all of this, rather than constitutional or Government decision-making processes.”

She added: “By saying that it will be Raab, they are giving him some political legitimacy to avoid any battles over that, so you don’t have Cabinet then being undecided as to who that person should be.”